Health, Vaccination and Insurance

Sick with e-coli in Costa RicaTravel vaccination, medication and insurance are probably the things that are more important than anything else when preparing for a journey. It can be frustrating to spend so much of your travel budget on things that don´t even get you started on your journey but in reality these provide securities that cannot really be put a price on.

Travel vaccination can be a tricky thing to figure out which ones to take, and it is actually by Norwegian law only allowed for health professionals to advise about. Thats is why I will only mention that I usually use a vaccination map (link) and the recommendations listed by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health which you can find on this link (fhi.no) to find out which vaccinations to take.

Photo: Sick with e-coli in Costa Rica and the medicinal cure that followed

Malaria is one of the most dangerous tropical diseases and cannot be vaccinated against. It is therefore important to check if it exists in the area you are traveling to. A malaria world map like this one can help you get an overview of which countries you should be aware of, and then you can look up the individual countries on this link to find out the areas where malaria is most common. If you find out that you are going to a malaria zone, you should consider using one of the following anti malaria medications:


Lariam and Malarone are recccomended, as long as you can afford them.

Lariam/Mefloquine:
– Is the easiest to use with only one tablet a week (the hard part is just remembering which day of the week you take them)
– Sold in 8 packs where one should be taken a week before entering and four should be taken after exiting the malaria area
– The pills are strong and expensive and might make you feel quite dizzy once a week (I did not


Doxycline:
– Is the cheapest option, and probably the best one for long term if you don’t get side effects when trying using them short term
– Can be bought in 50 packs where you can start one day before and finish one week after leaving the malaria area
– Made me wake up sweaty at night where I felt like the ground was moving. After a couple of weeks of use I still felt dizzy in the mornings and generally unwell so I decided to quit, even though I had several weeks more of travel in malaria area. It also makes you catch a sunburn more easily.


Malarone:

– It is the most expensive option, but has only mild and rare side effects. I only got dizzy when taking it on an empty stomach
– You can start just two to four days before you get to- and finish around one week after leaving the malaria area.
– The one I would recommend using if you can afford it
Since both malaria and dengue fever are transferred from mosquitos it is smart to avoid it in the first place. This can be done by covering your skin in the evenings and putting on plenty of mosquito repellent. Since the repellents sold in Norway are weaker (less % deet) I would recommend buying it while traveling.

A good travel insurance can make the difference between having your trip ruined by theft, delayed luggage and accidents and continuing your trip as planned, getting you home or rerouting your trip to carry on when you get better.

In Norway I would say there are two travel insurances worth considering for longer backpacking trips up to 365 days (Europeiske and Gouda). Even though it is a close call I would say that Gouda Travel Insurance is the best (and cheapest) one out there, but my reasoning for this I will save for a future post..